Thursday, December 15, 2011

Our Sense of Entitlement is Staggering

Before I get too for into this rant/ramble, go here and read about what comedian Louis C.K. has done with his most recent release: (if you can't be bothered, he basically produced his own comedy special, with his own money, and rather than signing a contract for someone else to market it, he pretty much just sold it himself for $5 each.  His idea was to see if people would still steal it even if it was super easy to buy and only cost $5 to purchase a legitimate copy, and if he could actually turn a profit selling an entire comedy special for only $5.  The answers to those questions are no and yes...pretty much.)

But my question about all this is this: should artists have to sell their products for ridiculously low prices just so people won't steal them?  Some people who I know (and still care about, despite their opinions on certain subjects) actually think it's ok to download free music.  As close as I can tell, the reasoning is that it doesn't actually cost $9.99 (or $16.99 if you buy a physical copy) to make one CD and musicians are getting rich off other people buying them and royalties and concerts, etc so what does it matter?  Well, obviously if everyone felt that way, it would matter a great deal.  In today's digital society, it has become far too easy for us to steal shit.  We sit here, all anonymous behind our computer screens and take things from people we'll never meet, never look in the eye, never have to answer to.  It doesn't take the balls that it used to take to shoplift if you wanted to steal something.  But just because it's easy and the chances that you'll get caught are probably pretty low, does that make it acceptable?

My argument to that is what makes you entitled to someone's art for free?  No one asks me to do my job for free (well, close...) so why should I expect anyone else to?  I would never ask a photographer to take pictures and give them to me for free, or a sculptor to make me a statue.  I wouldn't ask a painter to come over and put a mural on my wall for free.  But it's ok to ask a musician to crank out an entire song (or album) and I'll snag that sucker for free?  (Obviously, this does not apply to songs/albums that are offered for free as a marketing tool.  But the intent there is exposure...which should lead to increased sales.) I don't think so.  And sure, maybe each individual CD doesn't cost $9.99 to make - but how can you put a price on creativity and soul?  And furthermore, wouldn't how much each one costs depend on how many are sold?  If you only sell 1 copy, you better get a pretty penny for it to pay all the people involved in the making.  But if you sell 100,000,000 copies, then maybe you could afford to give a few away and not notice.

I've talked about this very subject before and maybe my opinion is somewhat clouded by the fact that I like to write.  Sure, I write this blog for the sheer pleasure of it, but if I wrote for a living (ah, the good life), I would be mad as hell if someone stole my work or expected me to do it for free.  Just because music isn't something you can hold in your hand (like a painting or a book) does not make it any less valuable.  Perhaps it is more so because the tangible part of it exits within us.  I just think it is disrespectful to the nth degree to steal anything that anyone has created from themselves - regardless of what form it takes.  It doesn't hurt either that I feel musicians (the good ones, obviously) deserve to be wealthy.  I want them to be able to focus on creating and not have to bag groceries to make ends meet.  And let's face it, in today's music industry, nobody is getting Michael Jackson rich anyway.

So sure, maybe I can't change your mind, and maybe your willingness to pay for your music hinges on how valuable it is to you.  That's cool, I get it.  All I ask is that the next time you think about stealing a song or an entire album, give some thought to the people who created it, the people who put their blood, sweat and tears into it the creation of that end product. 

Also, would you walk into Sam Goody and steal a physical CD?  No?  Well what's the difference?

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